I hate reading articles like this!

Posted by Allen Rucker in Life After Paralysis on March 12, 2020 # Health

A blog of mine that posted early in February, called “A Cautionary Tale,” all about two horrible months of paralysis-related health problems and what I learned from them, received a goodly number of likes and shares and comments. My favorite came from a friend of my friend and fellow blogger, Heather Krill, who graciously passed the piece around. “I hate reading articles like this!” replied her friend. Why? Bad writing? Wrong font? No, because he or she had no intention of getting something expensive or scary like contracture surgery or even a CT scan. He/she wanted to know if there was “any small thing I can do to make sure I’m really taking care of myself. I wish he could also share some advice that didn’t involve surgery…”

My first response was: “Wait a minute…I’m the guy writing about a dreadful period where I had 1) a CT scan that alerted me to a deadly arterial stenosis crisis and 2) four surgeries in a row where I lost a toe but saved two legs. I probably the last person to ask about small things that don’t involve surgery. If I had paid attention to those “small things,” I wouldn’t have gotten into this pickle in the first place.

The irony is, I did know a few of those things, at least on a conceptual level. I just didn’t apply them rigorously or forgot about them or something. And some of them, alas, I only learned after the barn door was left open, so to speak.

I could add a few tips about avoiding things like contractures or UTI’s or enhancing blood flow to your extremities, say, but to me the main issue is problem wounds. If I could lick this one quandary, maybe I could be more attentive to other areas of potential trouble and stay ahead of the game. There’s Catch-22 here. Because I often have wounds on my legs to protect and heal, I can’t go swimming for fear of bacterial infection. Swimming is great for enhancing both blood circulation and your mood. Enhanced circulation would help the wounds heal faster.

Only recently did another friend, Tim Gilmer, former longtime editor of “New Mobility” magazine and a 50+ year veteran of living with paralysis, sent me the definitive five-component list on how to heal a problem wound. Tim wanted to make sure that the real credit here goes to acclaimed wound expert and infectious disease specialist, Dr. Bruce E. Ruben, who runs an outpatient wound care center in Bloomfield, Michigan.

Tim calls them the “Five Essential Components for Healing Wounds.” If any of them aren’t observed, wounds will not heal.

  • No infection in wound or underlying bone.
  • No external pressure – zero – on the wound itself.
  • Adequate blood flow to the wound and circulation around the wound.
  • No edema or swelling in or around the wound area. It puts internal pressure on the wound bed, prevents circulation, and invites infection.
  • Consume copious amounts of protein in your daily diet to enhance new cell growth. Tim subscribes to a formula where your weight (in lbs.) should be of a ratio of 1.25/1.5 of your daily grams of protein. If you weigh 180, say, that is 1.25 of 144 grams of protein -- a lot. A good protein drink will give you 30 grams. Protein powder, 20-25 grams.

As I finish this delicious protein bar (11 grams), the thorniest of the above components is…zero pressure! There is no standard, universal fool-proof device or method for achieving this. You and your mate and your wound care specialist have to figure out together.

Good luck!

Allen Rucker was born in Wichita Falls, Texas, raised in Bartlesville, Oklahoma, and has an MA in Communication from Stanford University, an MA in American Culture from the University of Michigan, and a BA in English from Washington University, St. Louis.